What professional organizations are useful for instructional designers? This post is part of a series about instructional design careers. I’ve been asked by a number of people how to get into this field, and these posts are based on my responses to those questions. A number of job seekers and transitioning teachers have asked about professional organizations to help people gain skills and network. The Learning Guild, ATD, TLDC, Training Magazine Network, and LDA all provide both free and paid resources for instructional designers and other learning and development professionals.
The Learning Guild
I have been a member of the Learning Guild for many years. They are focused especially on elearning, but also instructional design, virtual training, emerging technology, and more.
I recommend that everyone interested in instructional design and elearning at least sign up for a free membership level, even if you aren’t able to attend any paid events. That free membership gives you access to the biweekly Learning Solutions Update newsletter, research papers, webinars, ebooks, and numerous other useful resources.
In fact, I found one of my early instructional design jobs through the Learning Guild job board.
As examples of the free resources available, I have published two free checklist ebooks through the Learning Guild.
- eLearning Quality Assurance Checklist
- Creating Relevant and Authentic Scenarios for Learning: A Checklist
Their conferences are great too. I have presented at the Learning Solutions Conference several times (check out my recap of LSCon 2023). The Guild conferences have a good mix of sessions for people who are new to the field and for those who are more experienced and looking to grow their skills. I pay for the Online Conferences Subscription, which gives me access to multiple online events every year.
I appreciate that the Learning Guild emphasizes speakers and authors who are actual practitioners working in the field. They’re deliberate about promoting diversity and giving opportunities to new speakers in the field. They also work to filter out speakers who promote myths and pseudoscience, an important concern for our field.
Association for Talent Development
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is another useful organization for professional development, networking, and job searching. ATD is more focused more broadly on training and development, but they have plenty of valuable information for instructional designers. You can use their job boards for free, and some of their resources are viewable even without a paid membership. For example, you can view ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model without a membership, but you have to pay to use the self-assessment.
ATD has paid membership both at the national and local chapter level. Paid memberships at the national level provide additional premium resources such as a subscription to TD Magazine and archived webinars. If your local chapter of ATD is active, that can be very valuable for networking and local live events, even if you don’t also join the main organization.
ATD hosts some of the largest conferences in the field of learning and development. If you’re interested in speaking in the L&D field, local ATD chapters are a great place to start and build experience.
My article Set the Scene was published in TD Magazine in 2021.
The Learning and Development Community or TLDC is a great organization for new instructional designers or others transitioning to the field to join. TLDC is a much smaller organization with an ongoing Slack group and multiple online events per year. About half of the online events are free; the others are for paying members only. Membership is only $75 per year though, so it’s more affordable than many other organizations.
TLDC hosts weekly live podcasts and shares many videos from events on their YouTube channel. I’ve spoken at several of TLDC’s events. Most recently, I spoke about how to Get Paid What You’re Worth at the Women of L&D event.
TLDC is a really lovely community with great people volunteering to organize events and share expertise.
Training Magazine Network
If you’re interested in free webinars to expand your instructional design and training skills, Training Magazine Network is a great resource. They host multiple webinars each week from a variety of speakers and professionals in the field. You can also subscribe to Training Magazine for free (the print version is only free in the US, but you can get the digital subscription anywhere in the world). TMN also offers some paid certifications, and Training Magazine hosts two in-person conferences per year.
Earlier in my career, I attended quite a few of the TMN webinars to expand my knowledge. For example, I live blogged one of Ray Jimenez’s webinars back in 2010.
I have done two webinars for Training Magazine Network this year, plus one upcoming webinar. The recordings for the past webinars are available for free.
- Streamlining Branching Scenario Planning and Design
- To Branch or Not to Branch: When and How to Use Branching Scenarios and Alternative Approaches
- Upcoming webinar: Creative Branching Scenario Solutions with Twine on Tuesday, August 8, 3 PM ET.
Just a warning: you will get a lot of emails from them once you register; they have so many events that it adds up to a lot of announcements and reminders. The trade off of emails that can be quickly deleted or easily filtered is worth it for the amount of useful webinars.
Learning Development Accelerator
The Learning Development Accelerator or LDA is a fairly new professional organization. It began in 2020 as a way to support L&D professionals, especially around sharing and applying research and learning science. They have some free resources, such as research reviews, but most of their events either require a paid membership or a one-time fee.
LDA is aimed more at improving the skills of people already in the field of learning and development, rather than helping those new to the field. However, if you’re interested in learning science and evidence-informed practices, LDA is definitely worth checking out.
Use the free resources
If you’re new to instructional design or transitioning to the field, use the free resources that these professional organizations provide. Yes, eventually you probably want to pay for membership in one or more of them as well. However, I’m strongly in favor of using the free resources first and getting as much out of them as possible so you can make more informed decisions about where to spend your money.
Other posts in this series
- What Does an Instructional Designer Do?
- Getting Into Instructional Design
- Resources for Learning Instructional Design Skills
- Technology Skills for Instructional Designers
- Professional Organizations for Instructional Designers (current post)
- Career Options for Instructional Designers (upcoming post)
- Is instructional design the right career?
Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.